Skip to comments.NORTH FLORIDA: Breaking Away
Posted on 01/09/2006 5:23:11 PM PST by sionnsar
On January 1, 2006, St. James Episcopal Church of Macclenny resigned its longtime affiliation with the Episcopal Church USA. On-going revisionist trends in the National Episcopal Church have resulted in disputes over doctrine and scriptural interpretation, particularly church sanctioned same-sex marriages and the appointment of homosexuals to prominent clerical positions.
The election and consecration in 2004 of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as the ninth Bishop of New Hampshire has been at the heart of the current debate.
The former St. James thus becomes the seventh congregation in the Diocese of Florida to break away from the Episcopal denomination, one of the oldest organized churches in Baker County. Although the election of a gay bishop has been the catalyst of the most recent sensational unrest, especially as depicted in the media, the divisive issues go deeper.
The Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, writing in a newsletter published by the Atlanta-based American Anglican Council summed up the situation thusly: " The foundational issues that separate the revisionist part of the Episcopal Church and the Orthodox Anglicans/Christians is not first of all sexuality, but the far more important issues of who Jesus Christ is, what he had done for us, and the authority of Holy Scripture as God's Word written.
While sexuality may or may not be a church-dividing issue, the argument over who Jesus Christ is and the authority of Holy Scripture absolutely is." St. James in Macclenny, according to the church leadership or vestry, follows traditional orthodox, scripturally based Anglican/Christian doctrines and does not support the revisionist perspectives of the Episcopal church.
In the Diocese of Florida, of which St. James has been a long standing member, six churches that have come to be known in the diocese as the Florida Six, have already formally withdrawn. According to members of its current vestry, St. James is the seventh church to disaffiliate with the Episcopal denomination. As of this week, the congregatin will be known as St. Peter's Anglican Fellowship.
The recently formed alliance of breakaway churches is currently without the jurisdictional oversight of a bishop, but can be covered temporarily under the oversight of a non-geographic global parish, probably in Asia or Africa until its own bishop can be elected. According to vestry members, the newly formed St. Peter's Anglican Fellowship found inspiration for its name in the New Testament story of Jesus when he spoke to Simon Bar-Jona whom he named Peter: "You are Peter; on this rock I will build my church."
The members of the former St. James notified Bishop John Howard of the Diocese of Florida via a letter drafted by the church's mission board (re-printed with this article).
According to the vestry of St. James, the Diocese contends that according to canon law, the bishop can reduce a church to mission status, confiscate the church building and other physical property, seize the church's money and replace the current clergy.
These alleged "rights" are now being examined by legal counsel to determine if the diocese does indeed have this type of authority. The vestry contends that this "threat" was implied toward St. James by Bishop Howard if the church did not quietly acquiesce to the new revisionist policies of the Episcopal Church USA.
It was previously reported in the Florida Times-Union that Bishop Howard, writing in an open letter to the 35,000 members of the Jacksonville-based Diocese of Florida, stated, "The diocese's founding documents, the rules of the Episcopal Church USA and Florida law make it 'crystal clear' that departing parishes have no claim to their property ... all property used by congregations is ultimately owned by the diocese."
In the event they are displaced from their property, St. Peter's reports that many churches in the community have offered the use of their sanctuaries until a new, permanent home can be established. "We do not object to anyone's lifestyle.
That is their business," said Lin Taber of Glen St. Mary, a member of the vestry board. "But the scriptures clearly define certain practices and behaviors as against the word of God. "We feel that the Episcopal Church has abandoned the authority of the scriptures and we choose to remain true to our traditional, orthodox, Biblically-based beliefs.
While we are resigning from ECUSA we will continue to embrace and practice the faith of Anglicanism. What we most take objection to is the "you will or else" attitude of the Episcopal Church."
Susan Krall, another long-standing member of the congregation sums it up this way: "If we have too, we'll meet out under the trees. The church isn't inside four walls. It's in the hearts of the people."
I'm going to start tagging the stories that have to do with property issues with a keyword to that effect, unless you have strong objections.
Bp Howard keeps insisting that he's orthodox, and it should be noted that in his two years as bishop he hasn't, to anyone's knowledge, permitted any gay marriages or ordained any practicing homosexuals. The problem is that he also keeps insisting that he has no intention of leaving ECUSA, and he has thwarted attempts by conservatives to move the diocese into the Anglican Communion Network.
Howard is a bigger threat than Robinson. And a lot of folks are going to fall for his tactics.
I certainly have no objections! That's a good idea. Thank you.
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